Educators at Staten Island Technical HS, an MC Incubator school, have shifted how they message progress and learning this year, in order to de-emphasize the competition inherent in traditional grading structures. They feel that grade competition can be damaging to learners, and takes the focus away from progress and learning. In addition to this language shift, they’ve moved their grading scale from 0-100 to A-F. (See this “Ask MC” for more on the wisdom of incremental change, and please email your own ah-ha's to us at

Here are some ah-ha moments from Staten Island Tech HS about shifting to a mastery approach with grading:

Students at Staten Island Tech HS dig into a collaborative science task

Students at Staten Island Tech HS dig into a collaborative science task

On the power of teacher influence:

“Kids are wired to please, so if we show them that learning and progress is what we value, they value that, too.”  —Mark, Principal

“The classroom is where students experience school. If you just change your classroom, you’ve changed their whole experience.” —Bianca, science teacher

On reducing the stigma of grades:

“The letter grades create a less visceral response. If the grade is a bit lower than they were hoping, it’s a less visceral reaction.” —Bianca, science teacher

“I don’t even say the word grades anymore. I just say ‘feedback.’ Everything is feedback. We live in a feedback loop now. If they get a quiz grade they don’t like, do it again—it’s just feedback.” —Pat, writing teacher

On preparing students for postsecondary life:

“Geometry isn’t going to change much over the next 10-15 years, the academic content generally is not going to change much . . .  but the skills students need are likely to change a lot. It’s my job to keep an eye on that, and prepare students for the world they will enter.” —Mark, Principal